A number of the airlines had decided to keep the middle seat (open).”, Also earlier this month, the chief communications officer for United Airlines (which, like American, has switched back to the possibility of booking full flights) tried to explain its own reversal. CDC: 6 Questions To Ask Before You Travel Within The U.S. Departure times: Gates close 30 minutes before departure (previously 15 minutes). The questions vary by airline, but in general they ask you to acknowledge or pledge that you haven't had a recent COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure and don't have symptoms. Since early April, United Airlines has been providing free round-trip flights to New York City for medical volunteers who wanted to help fight against the COVID-19 crisis. Earnest continued during his media briefing thus: “If you want to stay safe on the airplane, we need to wear a mask, we need to have good air filtration, the airplane needs to be thoroughly cleaned, and we need to make sure that every stage of your journey where we can socially distance, that we’re doing that. Those are all the steps that scientists have recommended that we take.”. Many major airlines claim to be taking steps to ensure social distancing, whether by blocking middle seats or capping the number of seats sold per flight. MileagePlus members seated in United Economy may be able to purchase a seat in Economy Plus, take advantage of premium cabin seating offers *, or request a MileagePlus Travel Award or MileagePlus Upgrade Award.The availability of these options varies based on whether you're booking travel, have already booked travel, or are eligible for check-in. As he was signing out of his last shift at the hospital on Friday night, Weiss says he told a group of physicians that he was actually more nervous about getting on an airplane than walking into a COVID ICU. Masks: "For those over the age of 2, wearing a face covering while travelling is a mandatory requirement issued by Transport Canada.All non-compliance cases will be reported to Transport Canada, and could result in a financial penalty." “I think people are smart,” says Weiss. That’s not a safety strategy.”. Through Jan. 6, 2021, Alaska is blocking middle seats. Middle seats: The airline is spreading customers around "to … MileagePlus members. They’re even better when the middle seats are blocked (just 1 in 770,000). Delta Air Lines. Alaska Airlines has promised to block middle seats (except when large families need … “Recent research results and data generate the approximation that, when all coach seats are full on a US jet aircraft, the risk of contracting Covid-19 from a nearby passenger is currently about 1 in 7,000,” an abstract of his research paper reads. Follow me on Instagram (@suzannekelleher) and Flipboard (@SRKelleher). 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TSA Reality Check: Air Travel Was Plummeting Before States Started Locking Down, CDC: White House Proposal For Airport Temperature Checks Is Not A Reliable COVID-19 Detection Strategy, I don’t see a time in the near future or middle future when that would change,” he says. American Airlines, the world's largest carrier disclosed Friday that "customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1." United Airlines is one airline company that plans to sell middle seats on its fight amid the coronavirus pandemic and calls for social distancing. Some airlines will not fill the middle seat during this pandemic, though others are now booking all seats. Airline COVID-19 safety rules, compared: Masks, middle seats - … On April 22, United announced with great fanfare that it would begin blocking middle seats in all aircraft cabins in an effort to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Though we cannot guarantee that all customers will be seated next to an unoccupied seat, based on historically low travel demand and the implementation of our various social distancing measures, that is the likely outcome,” reads the section on social distancing. Digging into the paper itself, the research proposes that your risk of contracting the coronavirus on a full plane flight, with no middle seat-blocking, is about 1 in 4,300, compared to a 1 in 7,700 chance of contracting the virus on a plane that keeps middle seats in open. ... United Airlines. Parties of 3+ can continue selecting seats together. © 2021 Forbes Media LLC. Master List Of U.S. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines have all made temporary changes to help stop the potential spread of COVID-19 in the skies. “I don’t see a time in the near future or middle future when that would change,” he says. United Airlines pledged to block the middle seat on flights through May 30. Weiss faults United for a major communication fail that gave an expectation of more space between passengers. We are coming home,” he tweeted. Delta said this month that the extension … As a longtime freelance travel writer, I’ve contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel + Leisure, Afar, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy, Parade, NBCNews.com, Good Housekeeping, Parents, Parenting, Esquire, Newsweek, The Boston Globe and scores of other outlets. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. The carrier has also said it would also use back-to-front boarding to give passengers more space as they walk onto a plane, and process all seating upgrades at the airport to better control crowding. A United Airlines executive hit back at critics on Wednesday, saying there was no practical need for social distancing on flights. The company said it will limit capacity on flights, though. United Airlines makes no commitment to blocking off middle seats, but says it will notify customers when “their flight is fairly full” to give them the option to change it. I’m never flying American Airlines again. Air Canada. U.K. International Arrivals Will Require Test - Too Little, Too Late? Sweden Ushers In Pandemic Law, Announces New Restrictions, The Hon. (Delta, Spirit and JetBlue are exceptions, pledging to block middle seats at least for a while.) Vendée Globe Sailing Race Rounds Cape Horn For Final Sprint To France, Skiers Want To Ski, And Ski Resorts Are Obliging, travelers passing through TSA checkpoints. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who have been doing these medical trips that the number of passengers on the plane has been increasing pretty steadily over the past month,” he says. “I wouldn’t get on another airplane for a very long time, unless I absolutely had to.”, I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, and spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology. Airlines and medical experts spar over whether or not the middle seat should be blocked. The number of passengers caught Weiss a bit off-guard, since his flight to New York two weeks ago was only about a third full. Airline Seating And Mask COVID-19 Policies ... JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines, among … But the reality is that air travel in the United States is down more than 90 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, and airlines have chopped routes and canceled thousands of flights. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, I (and lots of other frequent flyers I know) tended to avoid American Airlines like the plague, for reasons that included the horribly cramped seats. Risks are lower in flights that are not full.”. “I wouldn’t get on another airplane for a very long time, unless I absolutely had to.”, EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change. Yesterday, Weiss tweeted a selfie that shows his jam-packed plane, with every seat on the 737 aircraft filled. Plans for a post-COVID … During this pandemic, you may want to know which airlines are leaving middle seats empty and which ones may pack your plane. “I guess a lot has changed in 10 days,” tweeted Dr. Weiss, along with a screenshot of an April 30 email sent from United Airlines entitled “A note from our Chief Customer Officer.” The email runs through all the steps United was taking to make passengers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. But will COVID-19 spell the end of the dreaded middle seat? Many airlines are pushing out updated health and safety policies for those who still can and want or need to travel. 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Here’s. “Most of what happened yesterday was a reaction to the fact that they [United] had been telling everyone that the middle seat was blocked,” he says. “My colleagues who came out a month ago said their flights were completely empty.”. This is an airline that has punished even its First Class passengers by reducing legroom. Empty middle seats? Note that the airline does not guarantee a blocked seat, however, as the carrier may choose to use those seats to accommodate passengers on previously canceled flights. Josh Earnest, who previously worked in the Obama White House before getting the job with United, argued that blocking middle seats is “a PR strategy. His argument is that even if you block middle seats, passengers are still within 6 feet of other passengers (in front of you and behind, for example, or across the aisle for those that both have aisle seats). “Why would you choose to be crammed into a tube with other people? Other measures “I thought that when people on that plane started figuring out what was going on — that they were there with 25 medical personnel who had just spent the last two to four weeks in an ICU — that some of them would have gone crazy. But United’s Earnest told CNN (via Inc.) that “keeping the seat next to you open is not going to make a material difference.” United Airlines According to the current policy outlined on United’s website, the airline has limited passengers from booking middle seats “where … United is currently exploring options to make COVID-19 testing more accessible for travelers. It also notes that the airline will limit seat selections “where available.”. United Airlines. As travelers begin to consider flying again, airlines are eager to offer reassurance. The airline is so far the only U.S. airline to commit to blocking middle seats through the first quarter of 2021. Will US Flyers Need To Provide COVID-19 Test Results After Passenger Death? Hawaiian Airlines will continue to block middle seats through Dec. 15. The COVID-19 page on United’s website offers more watered-down language. That combination means that many flights are full. Alaska Airlines will have masks available for passengers who forget theirs at home. On United Airlines ... United flyers may experience a fuller flight as the company is not longer adopting a blocked-out seat or open middle seat policy. It was surprising to me that it didn’t get more unruly, but I guess everyone just wanted to get where they wanted to get.”. Frontier Airlines … “We’re automatically blocking middle seats to give you enough space on board,” said the email. Alicia Lopez … Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley blasts American Airlines for packing the middle seats on his flight https://t.co/aFztuLslQW pic.twitter.com/AT60VCa6aV, — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 4, 2020, Well I know which airlines I intend to support going forward – Delta, Jet Blue and Hawaiian – the 3 US airlines that continue to block the middle seat – putting safety ahead of profits. But you don’t have to take my word for it — here’s an Inc. magazine article ranting about this same thing, titled “American Airlines Just Sneakily Scheduled Its Most Insanely Cramped Plane for a Really, Really Long Flight.”. We are coming home,” he tweeted. Travelers from San Francisco (SFO) to Hawaii can register for a rapid test at the airport with Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care on the same day as their flight or do a … On aircraft without any middle seats: We will block the selection of one aisle of seats on smaller aircraft. You may opt-out by, Dr. Weiss, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco’s Cardiovascular Research Institute, had just spent two weeks volunteering at New York-Presbyterian Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis. Which U.S. Airlines Are Blocking Middle Seats During COVID-19 Johnny Jet November 14, 2020 I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge of reward travel, travel credit card deals, travel tips and more. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like. The result is fewer planes in the air, at the same time there has been an uptick in travelers passing through TSA checkpoints in recent weeks. Redfield made his comment during a recent Senate Health Committee hearing, responding to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders by lamenting: “I can tell you that when they announced that the other day, obviously there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines. “I am with a group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in NYC hospitals for the past 2-4 weeks. According to United, these new procedures would remain in effect through May 31. “This is the last time I’ll be flying for a very long time,” Dr. Ethan Weiss tweeted yesterday from a crowded United Airlines flight from Newark to San Francisco. United Airlines, for one, is offering to let fliers on crowded flights rebook. “I think United got lucky that this particular group of people did not go apeshit,” he says. American Airlines and United Airlines have resumed selling potentially packed flights, now that they’ve reversed their temporary coronavirus-inspired policy of blocking middle seats. Passenger loads. The final word: As long as everyone is wearing a mask on a flight with blocked middle seats, I’m choosing that flight every single time over the alternative (of a packed flight). These U.S. airlines are still blocking seats in the name of social distancing. “These poor people who had tickets to sit in the middle seat didn’t want to be there anyway, and they were getting yelled at by people who were sitting on the aisle or at the window,” says Weiss. After initially pausing ticket sales for middle seats in April, American Airlines didn't even pretend to want to keep the policy in place until COVID-19 cases declined. It’s bad enough that American took it upon themselves to change my flight time to 2 hours earlier, made it less direct, gave me a longer layover, AND made it non refundable, but they did this and had the gall to put me in a middle seat. On aircraft with middle seats: We will block the selection of middle seats in Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin for parties of 1-2. “People on this plane are scared/shocked.”, Dr. Weiss, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco’s Cardiovascular Research Institute, had just spent two weeks volunteering at New York-Presbyterian Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis. Traditionally, fall is a good time to look for … Still, the elevated risk profile is why we noted a moment ago the displeasure from CDC director Robert Redfield, who expressed “substantial disappointment” with American Airlines for this change in middle seat policy (American switched back to booking middle seats again earlier this month). On April 22, United announced with great fanfare that it would begin blocking middle seats in all aircraft cabins in an effort to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We compare airlines' COVID-19 policies. If you factor in a 1% mortality rate (actually 1.6% of cases here where I live are resulting in deaths, but 1% is being used to keep the math simple), this paper suggests that your risk of both contracting and dying from coronavirus as a result of flying on a full plane flight is something like 1 in 430,000. Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. The research comes from Arnold Barnett, a management science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who decided to bring some academic rigor to bear in studying the effect of packing planes with people again while the coronavirus is still rampaging across the US. What’s more, a new study has found that airlines like American (along with United) which have resumed booking passengers in middle seats are roughly doubling your chance of catching the coronavirus on that flight. Here’s Day One.). As a. I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, and spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology. A couple don't accept medical exemptions. On April 22, United announced with great fanfare that it would begin blocking middle seats in all aircraft cabins in an effort to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The problem with what happened yesterday, is I think there was such a disconnect between people’s expectations and the reality.”, Weiss understands why Americans are reluctant to fly in today’s environment, and says he would not fly for a leisure trip. Fewer people, period, would seem to be the less-risky option, since those flights include fewer people who could potentially have the coronavirus. Its own pilots have complained about its planes, and in 2019, American Airlines reportedly bumped more passengers off of overbooked flights than all other US airlines combined. “I was prepared, and I was treating flying like I was walking into an ICU filled with COVID patients,” he says. United Airlines recently announced that it was making some middle seats unavailable for passengers to select. “But a lot of other passengers were confused and scared and didn’t really understand what was going on.”. Will avoid the others when I return to flying https://t.co/CpRbBpcysQ, — Rachna Sizemore Heizer (@RachnaHeizer) July 3, 2020. (If you’re interested in learning what Weiss’s experience was like, his journal entries are in his Twitter feed. During boarding, some passengers began to argue with those assigned to the middle seat. These estimates, Barnett goes on to note, imply that the mortality risks associated with the coronavirus for uninfected travelers are higher than your risk of dying in a plane crash. Some airlines ban passengers from future flights if they refuse to wear a mask. (If you’re interested in learning what Weiss’s experience was like, his journal entries are in his Twitter feed. Do you like those odds? Low fares may not be enough to lure many travelers. Still, Weiss had his PPE. It is counter to everything we’ve been told for the past two months.”. Additionally, as we noted just a few days ago, the director of the CDC has lamented a move by the carrier to resume filling its middle seats again, something it had briefly paused since the world is, you know, in the midst of a pandemic. Social distancing selection of one aisle of seats on smaller aircraft got lucky that this particular group 25! Flights that are not full. ”, Spirit and JetBlue are exceptions, pledging to block seats. 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